Supporters of Iran’s exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi travelled from across the UK to signal their support for him as he held a talk in the Oxford Union this evening.
Reza Pahlavi, son of the last Shah of Iran, is currently one of the leading opposition figures in the protests against the Iranian regime. He previously spoke at the Union in 2014 on the topic of a democratic Iran.
According to the police, a crowd began forming outside the Oxford Union at around 15:00. Whilst roughly 2000 were expected to show up, police estimated the turnout at around 700 people, telling Cherwell at 18:00 that they had no intention of dispersing the crowd, though a drone was raised over the gathered supporters.
While Pahlavi spoke inside the Union, people chanted his name and held up pictures of him. Many had Iranian flags painted on their cheeks and held red roses in support. Some stood on chairs or climbed onto the plant boxes outside Society Cafe to get better views of the Union entrance.
One supporter, who had travelled from London, told Cherwell that they were happy that Pahlavi was being hosted in the Oxford Union and that they were in Oxford to support him because he will lead a referendum for a free Iran if the dictatorship lifts. Another supporter, also from outside Oxford, told Cherwell they had found out about the event on Twitter.
In his address to the Oxford Union, Pahlavi stressed the importance of maximum support and maximum pressure with regards to public opinion and legislation, such as further sanctions, as Iran is in a “critical phase”. He told the chamber that his “first ask” was to secure internet access in Iran, to ensure connectivity and allow for further organisation of the resistance. He also proposed using the seized assets from sanctions to help fund mass labour strikes.
When asked about when, or if, the regime will fall, Pahlavi said this depends on additional support and whether the momentum can be maintained. The regime, he believes, is “much further ostracised today than nine years ago”, when the Oxford Union first hosted him. He also believes that a peaceful regime change, like that in South Africa, would be possible. Pahlavi further mentioned that he is against using force as a means to an end, and that by not resorting to violence “the cost of change” can be minimised. He recently told the Telegraph: “I think the alignment of stars is now there. The opportunity is right in front of us [for the Islamic Republic to fall].”
Pahlavi also claimed that both his role and that of the opposition lies solely in achieving a referendum and quickly erecting a parliament afterwards, in order to debate all the areas in which opinions differ. He also stated that a secular government would be a “requisite for democracy”. Notably, he said that he does not intend to run for office himself.
At the end of the talk, Pahlavi urged Oxford students to empower and act as ambassadors on behalf of the Iranian people, noting that many revolutions began at universities. His visit to Oxford is part of a broader tour of Europe that Pahlavi has been using as an opportunity to discuss Iran’s political climate with European officials and politicians.